The Inconvenient Truth

June 4, 2006

Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Truth, is this generation's Silent Spring – only it seems unlikely that enough governments, and enough people, will respond in time to avert many of the most catastrophic effects of the global climate change that is clearly already upon us.

As Gore amply demonstrates, with the help of compelling graphics and stunning images from around the world, many of the changes predicted by scientists only a decade ago are already visible, measurable, and in some cases devastating. It is evident, for example, that Hurricane Katrina gathered strength by passing over the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, waters that were several degrees higher in temperature than they have been for the past ten thousand years.

And contrary to the impression of “controversy,” “uncertainty,” or “hypothesis” perpetrated in the mainstream media, no reputable scientists have even the slightest doubt that global warming is a “real and present danger,” and that human activity is its principal cause.

As the movie's signature web site, www.climatecrisis.net, puts it, “the evidence is overwhelming and undeniable”:

We're already seeing changes.

  • Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing.
  • The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
  • Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.
  • The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.
  • At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.

If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences.

  • Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years – to 300,000 people a year.
  • Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
  • Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense.
  • Droughts and wildfires will occur more often.
  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
  • More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

Although Gore is frequently seen lecturing in front of an audience, the movie is also everything that it is cracked up to be – dramatic, terrifying, warm, funny, ironic, informative, and motivating. Gore emerges as a much more passionate, engaging, and human person than he ever allowed himself to be on the campaign trail; and one can now only hope that he will run in 2008 as really “his own man.”

Jonathan Cloud
Saturday, June 3, 2006

Headed for Disaster?

June 3, 2006

The goal of this blog is to examine the trends that are seemingly leading the modern world toward multiple, intersecting disasters, and to inquire into why we are not taking the appropriate actions to avert them.

At a time when the media is busy blathering on about our "disaster preparedness," and more money is being spent on threat avoidance than ever, how did it come about that no level of government could cope with a widely- and accurately-predicted hurricane in the Gulf — and that America seemingly continues down this dangerous course? How is it possible that we continue to neglect a rational and effective response to the AIDS pandemic, even as health officials raise new alarms about avian flu and the possible emergence of new and even more catastrophic diseases? How is a supposedly "conservative" Congress repealing taxes on the rich and simultaneously spending us into the poorhouse?

The goal of this site is not to be an "alarmist" web site, even where the facts are truly alarming. It is to understand these facts, and to understand why we persist in disregarding them, even when their consequences are starting to catch up with us. It is to grapple with the reality that everywhere around us the temperature of the water is rising, and like the proverbial frog we seem unable to move ourselves into action.

Indeed, it is arguable that we are not simply "headed for disaster," but that in many ways we are already there. A huge area of our country remains devastated; a large number of our children remain without adequate nutrition, education, and health care; two million people are behind bars, in many cases for non-violent and non-destructive "offenses"; we are rapidly multiplying the ranks of anti-U.S. militants and terrorists, while leaving in Iraq in worse shape than it was under one of the world's worst dictators, Saddam Hussein; we are polluting the land, the water, and the air, and pouring enough CO2 into the environment to melt the poles and raise the sea level by 20 feet or more in the next 50 years; we are spending huge sums on the remotest of threats, such as another terrorist attack, while neglecting the much more real and immediate threats of disease, malnutrition, and neglect. How is it possible for us to accept these realities, and continue blithely to try to build new businesses, expand our own and others' consumption, think we are adhering to Christian (or indeed any religous) values, or even sleep at night?

To understand any of this we need to take another look at recent history, understand what has brought us here, and how we may yet avert even more massive human tragedies than the ones we are already witnessing. We need to look at how past wars, environmental threats, and epidemics were resolved or averted. And we need to understand how our mindsets — whether utopian, cynical, or apocalyptic — affect our perceptions and our behavior, and in many ways shape our interpretations of the facts.

I hope that many conservatives, as well as a few liberals, will read this. I believe that the challenges we face pose as much danger to religion, to free enterprise, and to the unborn as they do to the rest of us, and that if we do not change course we will inevitably end up where we are headed. Disasters are inherently nonpartisan, though they may impact the diasadvantaged and the unprepared more than others. Selective perception is just that — blind to at least one side of the facts. The challenge is to advance a more pragmatic analysis, yet one that is not, like that of the so-called neocons, based on cynicism, dishonesty, and hypocrisy, but is indeed clear-eyed, courageous, and effective whatever one's prior opinions or prejudices. It is to bring order out of chaos, clarity out of confusion, meaning out of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary global culture.

We welcome contributions that seek to do this. You can post comments, or ask to be added as an author or contributor. We live for the dialogue, for the opportunity to raise our voices and take a principled stand against the forces of confusion, corruption, and oppression wherever we find them. Eventually we may seek to create a book out of it. But for now it is free, organic, and explicitly collaborative.

Jonathan Cloud
Saturday, June 3, 2006


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